This week I took a journey to work with the folks at NASA in Huntsville Alabama. I was there a few years ago and really thought it was a cool place to visit, and so I was kind of looking forward to the trip. Since my flights left at 630AM, this meant that I had to get up at 2AM in order to get ready and get to the airport at least an hour and a half before my flight left. I seriously considered just flying as Matthew so that I could get one more hour of sleep, but the more I thought about it, the more I figured that it really didn’t make that much difference. By the time you are getting up at either two or three in the morning, your pretty well gonna be miserable in any case, and one more hour of sleep just isn’t gonna make you or break you. Of course I hadn’t counted on my sick one year old son and my one year old grand daughter both crying and yelling all night long and keeping everyone wide awake. When my alarm went off, it took an actual act of willpower to keep from throwing it across the room . . .
I wore a new dress that I just bought last week on clearance at Macy’s and I just love the thing. I love its style and all of the colors are colors that I think look great on me. Considering that it was a $90 dress on sale for only $18, I think it’s nothing short of awesome!
As I approached the Delta kiosks to get my ticket, the male customer service rep grinned at me as always, and we had our obligatory comments about flying Delta versus the competition.
“Flying Delta again so soon huh?” he said with a laugh.
“You betcha! I always fly Delta of I can” I replied as I made my way to the counter to check my bags. My favorite CSR Mona, waved me forward.
“Good morning Mona! How are you doing?” I asked her as I lifted my bags on to the scale.
“I’m well Matthew, how are you?”
“Well, so far I’m doing OK, but my children are all sick so it’s just a question of time before I come down with it!” I laughed.
“Awe, that’s too bad.” she said as she handed me back my tickets and ID. “You know I love your coat! I need to get a new one myself.”
“Thanks, it is kind of cute isn’t it?! I looked for a couple weeks before settling on this one. You should try JC Penny’s – they have cute and affordable coats there.”
“Maybe. The problem is that I live out of town and so have to buy online.”
“That’s no problem – I’ve spent a significant portion of my paycheck with JC Penny’s online.” I told her and we both laughed.
The lady that sat next to me on the flight out of Austin took one look at my shoes and then spoke to me.
“Thank you! I have kind of a thing for cute Mary Janes!” I replied with a smile.
“That’s OK, I have kind of a thing for shoes period!” she replied with a grin and we both laughed.
Yeah, about those shoes? They have four inch stiletto heels, look awesome, and are as adorable as they come, but they are not comfortable. I’ve worn them before and don’t recall them feeling terribly uncomfortable, but these things were killing me today, and I still had another eight hours of traveling to do in them. When people ask me for advice on how to travel, I always make it a point to advise them to be sure that the shoes that they are going to wear are tolerable and comfortable. I sure wish I had followed my own advice, because by the time I got to my hotel, my toes were hurting so bad I was having trouble walking without a limp.
The following morning I made my way to the Marshall Space Flight Center on the Redstone Arsenal to work with one of the NASA contractors there. Soon after checking in at the gate, I found myself in a huge aircraft hanger full of massive cylinders laying on their sides and supported by steel frames. These cylinders were actual modules that had been intended to be launched into orbit and used as a part of the International Space Station. They were being used here for testing, R & D, and the like. They are using our FTIR (Infrared Mass Spectrometer) to monitor the effectiveness of their air filtering system under assorted loads and conditions.
When I was escorted into the area, I was quite frankly filled with awe and envy. After all, how very neat it must be to work here and be intimately involved with mankind’s efforts to leave our planet and make our way into space. I was thinking these weighty and inspiring thoughts as my escort brought me into a lab where the man who owned our instrument was working. They immediately brought my mind crashing back down to Earth though when they started speaking to each other.
“You know, I’m sorry but I just didn’t have to pee bad enough to fill the jug up this morning. Maybe we should have ‘Jill’ top it off for us? With her being pregnant, that might give us some interesting results!” my escort quipped to the man in the lab who was to be my contact for this service call. It was then that I noticed that he was wearing gloves and carrying a box full of quart containers of yellow liquid – presumably urine. He sat the box down and then raised his gloved hands in the air.
“Hello and thanks for coming! I would shake your hand, but . . . “ he grinned as he wiggled his gloved fingers to show that shaking hands might not be in my best interests at the moment.
“Oh no, no, no - that’s quite all right!” I laughed.
“Either they have dramatically increased the sample size needed for drug testing since I last had to do it, or you guys are doing something else with all of that?” I pointed to the box of large containers full of urine.
“We all volunteered to provide samples and are testing the Space Stations Filtration and Recycling system with it.” He said with a grin.